Let me cut to the chase…why do I think that the Volkswagen Tiguan is the best compact SUV right now?
I know. That is an audacious statement. It is not without data, impressions, I know. That is an audacious statement. It is not without data, impressions, and results. However, it has always been a basis of argument between myself, my colleagues in the automotive media, the readership, and anyone else who wants to start a conversation about vehicles in the most important automotive segment today.
There is a way to test your hypothesis on which vehicle is best in a particular class. Drive the most basic model available at your local dealership. That way, you can experience a certain vehicle’s starting point in terms of quality, content, and performance.
That is exactly what I did.
The Volkswagen Tiguan S is a great starting point when you are looking at this Mexican-produced German entrant into this hotly contested segment. You get plenty of content for the money, including smartphone integration, some essential driver assistance features, and a spacious cabin.
I’m only scratching the surface. Let me get a bit deeper here…
First off, the Tiguan S with 4Motion all-wheel drive is a nice place to be on a sub-$30,000 budget. The cloth seats are comfortable and supportive, to begin with. If you had to do a road trip, like I accomplished recently to Bemidji, Minnesota, you need to have seats that will keep you engaged throughout the drive. This is not just a Tiguan trait, but something you will find across the Volkswagen lineup.
Space is important, especially when you have a family, a business, or live an active lifestyle. Only a few vehicles in its class offer a cargo hold that has capacity and space utilization at the same time. With the second row up, I have 37.6 cubic feet of cavernous space. Fold the rear seats down – split by 60/40 – and that expands to 73.5 cubic feet.
One thing to note about the Tiguan is that it comes with two rows of seats standard. You can order a third row of seats but be prepared to lose some precious cargo space in the process. With that said, the two-row configuration offers real adult space behind the driver. I would recommend sticking with a two-row model.
For the driver, the Tiguan S offers a great command center that is true to the Volkswagen brand. Large dials with easy to read instruments, and a center screen for vehicle information, keeps you informed all of the time. I also like the simple functionality of the controls operating everything from climate, audio, lights, wipers, etc.
This Tiguan had a solid set of driver assistance features on board. These features include Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert. It is important to note these features as they might not come standard on a “base” version on a competitor. For 2020, these features are standard on the Tiguan S. Before then, they were available as a package at an affordable upgrade.
What is standard on the Tiguan is that 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged engine. While 184 horsepower is about where the competition is at power-wise. When you test drive the rest, you will find something lacking – low-end performance. The Tiguan has 221 pound-feet of torque – the best in its class. And, you can feel it when passing on the highway or getting up an on-ramp.
It helps to have a great transmission connected to a powerful engine. The Tiptronic family of automatic transmissions from Volkswagen are among the best in terms of facilitating performance and reliability. The Tiguan has the eight-speed version, which adds fuel efficiency to the mix, especially on long highway drives. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 4Motion Tiguan S at 20 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway. I achieved better than those figures. On my drive to/from Bemidji, I reached an average of 33.8 MPG.
The Tiguan has a long wheelbase, which usually translates into a smooth ride. I can confirm this. When you have a mix of new and old tarmac on a long drive – or, have to deal with roads that have not been fixed from a tough winter – the Tiguan does a great job absorbing the road and keeping things under control.
You will also find that the Tiguan has good stopping power with a solid pedal action, along with a good steering system with equally good on-center feel. In all, the Tiguan is a pleasure to drive. Something you don’t often hear or read about other compact SUVs.
As a consumer reading this review/article, you might wonder if the Volkswagen Tiguan S is worth it. The base price on a brand new 2020 model with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is $26,245.
However, my tester was a 2019 Tiguan S with 4Motion – a vehicle available in the Certified Pre-Owned inventory. For the mileage, it looked and felt brand new – just like one of the vehicles I usually get from the manufacturer. The original sticker price for this model was $25,595, plus the addition of the Driver Confidence Package (standard for 2020) and an upgraded mirror with HomeLink. I cannot disclose what this particular unit is going for, but if you can find this or a similar vehicle at your local dealership – buy it.
Should I get into warranties? My tester still has the People First Warranty – which was the best new vehicle warranty when it came out. This warranty is still good on this vehicle, along with additional warranty coverage and perks from the Certified Pre-Owned program by Volkswagen. All of this adds up to one thing: This Tiguan S with 4Motion is actually one of the best values in the market right now.
The point to this review is to demonstrate that you do not have to get an upgraded trim level to have absolute enjoyment in a vehicle. Especially, a vehicle in a hotly contested segment.
Sure, you will miss a few things. I’d love to have the adaptive cruise control, the Digital Cockpit, and the full suite of Car-Net connected services, including on-board Wi-Fi. However, this Volkswagen Tiguan S showed me that I can live without those luxuries in a comprehensively equipped vehicle that is completely livable at the lower price point.
To that point, stop shopping and look at a Volkswagen Tiguan.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Volkswagen of Inver Grove, Inver Grove Heights, MN
All photos by Randy Stern